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The rise and rise of foodie-ism

person taking photo of food with their phone

I have a secret confession to make. I am a huge Nigella Lawson fan.

In a nutshell

  1. Food is a huge part of the prevailing culture in today’s society. It is demonstrative of the Cultural Current ‘Beyond’ – the shift to a post-materialist, experience-oriented culture where people are seeking more meaningful ways to live their lives in a full, rich way.
  2. People are increasingly seeking out experiences, and this extends to dining. Foodies seek new food experiences that are unique and out of the ordinary as a hobby, rather than simply eating out of functional need. 
  3. Ensuring a ‘grammable’ element to any dining experience in the future will be essential for brands looking to harness commercial growth and ride the wave of foodie-ism.

For me it’s not the sex pot image that appeals, or the idealised image of feminine domesticity that she represents. Rather, how she manages to cleverly weave culture into how she writes about food in a very intelligent way (yes, she did go to Oxford boys).

The infamous words of The Castle – “It’s the culture, the place is full of culture, chockers” – express the fact that culture is all around us and, unquestionably, omnipresent in our everyday lives. At TRA we refer to cultural currents. A little different from ‘trends’, currents represent the way the mega-trend is playing out in any particular society and navigating the unique context of that country or sub group. In the marketing landscape, cultural currents are increasingly the driver of change in society and business.

Humans are social animals – we herd, and increasingly we herd around the cultural currents that ebb and flow in society today. These currents are increasingly reshaping our world and creating greater change than ever before, all due to the light speed with which technology now communicates new ideas and drives cultural change. Brexit, Donald Trump, Miley Cyrus, Bitcoin, kale – not surprising if you understand the cultural context from which they all emerged.

Food is life and a huge part of the prevailing culture in today’s society. We see it as demonstrative of one of the key emerging cultural currents we refer to at TRA as ‘Beyond’ – the shift to a post-materialist, experience-oriented culture where people are seeking more meaningful ways to live their lives in a full, rich way.

“Is this grammable?”

In a post-material world, people are increasingly seeking out experiences as a badge of honour – it’s what you do, not what you own that is now important. When it comes to food, for many, dining out is no longer enough on its own without a layer of experience wrapped in a neat bow around it.

Globally and in New Zealand people are increasingly seeking out experientialism in the food they consume, and the cult of foodie-ism continues to advance at breakneck speed.

Foodies seek new food experiences that are unique and out of the ordinary as a hobby, rather than simply eating out of functional need, convenience or just pure hunger. The icing on the cake, so to speak, is to be able to share this experience with others on social media.

I recall stumbling into a restaurant in Berlin 10 years ago, sitting down to peruse the menu and seeing no prices. At the end of the meal you simply paid what you thought the meal was worth, based on your own value judgement. It was a mind blowing experience at the time – unfortunately social media had not yet been invented to allow me to share this.

But fast forward 10 years, and “is this grammable?” is now a key consideration for people in choosing where and how they eat, particularly in emerging demographic groups such as Millennials or Gen Z.

This can be attributed to the kind of sensory deprivation we now experience in our modern lives. We are so accustomed to sitting in front of a screen all day, we now want something that’s tangible, that we can see, feel, smell and taste, to fulfil our need for sensory pleasure.

green jelly building
Bompass & Parr jelly art

The global food scene is innovating and expanding its cultural reach

Hot-beds of food and beverage innovation are popping up everywhere – London, New York, Melbourne – presenting a plethora of unique dining experiences exist for foodies to seek out.

One example of a ground-breaking foodie experience is the Damon Baehrel bistro, located in the basement of Damon and his wife's house where he forages and creates all of the ingredients used in his restaurant (including flour, spices, cheese and more) directly from the 12-acre property. The 16-seat restaurant has one chef (Damon), 3 Michelin stars, a 10 year waiting list to 2027 (supposedly – there is some debate around this), and is lauded as one of the most ‘exclusive’ restaurants in America.

In London, Bompass & Parr use food art in the form of jelly moulds to make edible decorations shaped like buildings and other architectural structures, creating immersive, multi-sensorial culinary events. They have created Willy Wonka gum that changes flavour as you chew and an ancient monastery pop-up named Alcoholic Architecture, where visitors were able to enjoy alcohol in a new way by experiencing a fully immersive, multi-sensory alcohol environment. They did this by filling the monastery full of vapourised alcohol that allowed guests to consume the equivalent of one drink through their skin, eyes and lungs, heralding a new future around alcohol vaping which we are likely to see emerge.

And let’s not forget the Cereal Killer Café in London – a colourful, nostalgic eatery with more than 120 cereals, plus a selection of milk and toppings. Sure it suffered from some bad press around gentrification from class war activists, but it continues to deliver a unique dining experience to patrons all the same.

Closer to home there are restaurants such as Orphan’s Kitchen with its own seasonal produce and on-roof beehive, and Pasture, a small 25 seat intellectual ‘fine dining but not as we know it’ restaurant which serves 6 seasonal courses that are largely cooked on the central open fire. There’s no question that Kiwi chefs are amongst the global elite experimenting and creating unique experiences that deliver to the rise of foodie-ism.

How Nigella plans to get into the experience game remains to be seen, but ensuring a ‘grammable’ element to any dining experience in the future will be essential for brands looking to harness commercial growth and ride the wave of foodie-ism.

Amber Coulter
Partner at TRA

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